who have been online for a while will remember the headier
days of Instant Messaging (IM) with ICQ. If
you were an AOL member, you had AOL Instant Messaging. It
was fun! You could say "Hello" and carry on
a conversation with a friend pretty well anywhere on
the planet. You could also do peer-to-peer file transfers
without any problems (those were pre-Napster days too),
and you could customize the sounds that ICQ made when
it performed a function. In fact a whole library of sound
clips became available on the ICQ site for just such
a thing. That was the fun part of IM.
the competition came along—Windows Messenger and
Yahoo! Messenger entered the fray. All of the IM programs
were good for simple text messaging. You could IM with
people that you had on your contact lists and, originally,
other people that you didn't know could say hello to
you. Ah the headier, startup days of IM. But the Internet
grew up, and so did IM.
September 2005 AOL had the largest group of users at
about 41 million, followed by Yahoo! Messenger at around
15 million and MSN Messenger at about 14 million users.
ICQ numbers were harder to come by as it was purchased
by AOL which subsequently ruined the program for me.
Most of my friends also stopped using ICQ, so I wonder
about how many of AOL's 41 million 2005 users were actually
ICQ-only users? It's still a big download on all of the
download services. In September 2005 Google entered the
fray with the release of Google Talk. Fast forward to
2007 and MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger lead the
all of the above installed on my computer. Each IM client
has its pluses and minuses. I use the one I need to communicate
with a particular person. Some of my friends use Trillian
as it handles most of the IM programs. But the one I
keep active most of the time is MSN Messenger, only because
Windows Messenger came with the operating system, and
I have upgraded it from Windows to MSN. This brings me
to the point of this review: How do you spice up your
instant messaging? You can add MSN Content Plus.
Messenger allow for Emoticons (little smiley faces and
the like), Winks (little Flash popups that can be kinda
cute) and you can change your background picture in your
message window and that of your contact’s (similar
to Yahoo! Messenger). MSN Messenger 7.5 includes a new
voice clip feature, whereby you can record a few seconds
of audio and send it, rather than text. This version
also offers better video and audio performance. The emoticons,
winks, backgrounds and nudges are continued. Most of
the IM programs also now offer direct webcam viewing
so you can see the person you are chatting with.
Content Plus adds even more to MSN Messenger with the
addition of new emoticons, backgrounds and winks. There
are the default ones that come with Messenger and a What's
New link that takes you to the MSN Content Plus web site
for updates. This feature offers custom emoticons, winks
and backgrounds that can really add to your IM experience,
albeit at a cost. I will, however, give MSN Content Plus
full credit for allowing a few emoticons, winks and backgrounds
to be downloaded for free. You have to search through
all that is offered to find them, but they are there,
and maybe you will get hooked and register.
MSN Content Plus installer that I was offered for review
worked flawlessly and put a shortcut icon on my desktop.
Clicking the icon takes you to 10 pages of winks, 7 pages
of emoticons and 2 pages of dynamic display picture packs.
You'll also find links to Home, winks packs, emoticon
packs and Muggins packs. The Home link takes you to the
MSN Content Plus page that lets you register at a fee
of $20.00 per feature.
features I really liked are the dynamic ones. Dynamic
means the icon, picture or background are animated. There
are dynamic display pictures, dynamic backgrounds and
icons that seem to be available only from MSN Content
Plus, at least I haven't seen this kind of stuff at Mess
Media or elsewhere yet. But I have received better
dynamic icons from my friends than those I have seen
on the MSN Content Plus web site. I particularly like
the double sized dynamic icons that have come across
my Messenger. But I digress.
it worth it? At $1.00 per background, you have to make
that call. Personally, I have found that most of my contacts
are not interested in sharing backgrounds, so while dynamic
backgrounds are nice, they can sometimes make message
text hard to read. Winks are another story and I've had
a lot of fun with them. Winks also typically run $1.00
per, so for the $20.00 registration, you'll get your
money's worth here.
Forget it. Save your money and spend it on winks or dynamic
display pictures. Most of the pages that MSN Content
Plus offers are pretty infantile, and as I've mentioned
before, a lot of better ones are being sent around the
MSN Messenger circuit for free. If you’re an experienced
Messenger user, you'll know how to capture them. However,
I noticed just before I submitted this review that there
is a new set of Dynamic Emoticons available and the Superheroes
ones are free. This is the style of emoticon that I personally
like and maybe you will too.
Display Pictures? Maybe. At $1.50 per download there
are enough good ones to make it worthwhile registering
for the MSN Content Plus Display Picture Installer. I
can see this feature being used for live video in a future
version of Messenger. At the size of the display picture,
it won't take up much bandwidth to transmit a low frame
rate video. You can emote yourself live from a camera
and be your own dynamic display picture.
also mention that MSN Content Plus offers static display
pictures on a variety of subjects. But why would you
purchase these when MSN Messenger allows you to make
your own from any static photo or picture that you already
have? However, MSN Content Plus has come up with a new
feature called Creaticons—again at a dollar a pop—that
allow you to put your text with their picture. This is
new, and I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but it
doesn't look too promising.
advice? No matter which IM you use, keep the program
minimized to the taskbar (unless you live inside the
IM program). If you're an MSN Messenger user and want
to spice things up, look at what MSN Content Plus has
to offer. Have fun!